TripHub brings structure to travel plans

TripHub logoSeattle based TripHub is launching a beta version of its integrated trip planning service on Tuesday. Users can co-ordinate group events, travel plans, lodging and activities. It’s a good service for centralizing lots of information in a structured format for multi-person activities. I’m not sure if it will prove to be a viable stand alone service, but it’s worth a look.

Founded in 2005 by a group of Expedia and Microsoft veterans, TripHub has received funding from the Madrona Venture Group. Madrona has funded a number of web startups from the Pacific Northwest, including airfare prediction service Farecast (see our coverage of Farecast).

The user interface for TripHub is either clean or sparse, depending on your perspective. Most of the site’s search functions appear to run through affiliate relationships with third party vertical search engines and some are not very compelling. Yahoo Travel is likely what you’ll want to use for travel search, but that’s not where TripHub’s focus is.

TripHub screenIt’s the structured communication that makes TripHub a useful tool. Managing invitations, RSVPs, an easy blog for each trip, all of these are undoubtedly useful. If Yahoo Travel keeps its current orientation, focused on individuals and sharing media like pictures after a trip, then TripHub could fill an important niche. Yahoo Travel is a moving target, though, as it continues to roll out innovation with more weight behind it than any startup is capable of.

TripHub’s business model is based on both affiliate search results and presumably other partnerships. Alaska Airlines has partnered with TripHub and I can imagine that many other organizations focused on tourism could benefit from offering good, clear, easy to use trip planning sections of their websites. Whether they buy instead of building their own would go beyond the scope of this post, but TripHub at launch looks to me like a startup liable to struggle as a stand alone company.

Not being a gigantic company like Yahoo! presents a challenge in vertical search like travel and the need to find content to populate a travel itinerary seems likely to lead users away from this site. We just might see the words “powered by TripHub” around other places on the web, though.